The High Rollers, Last Call Brawlers, The Dead TonesThe Hut, Friday, Jan. 11
Defining Tucson nightlife is about as easy as defining rock 'n' roll--everyone has his or her own unique experience and definition.
Take just one major strip--Speedway Boulevard, for example. Past the frat bars lies a genuine biker dive, while further down, a smoke-filled café full of nubile nicotine peddlers taunt their leathered-skinned regulars. Further yet, a desert restaurant specializes in reliable Wi-Fi, fruit-filled pie and the laptop-yielding World of Warcraft zombies who crave both.
Last Friday night on Fourth Avenue, another nightlife subculture was in full swing for a live show at The Hut, featuring some of the finest rockabilly acts Arizona has to offer.
Locals The Dead Tones opened the night with their Misfits-inspired psychobilly--a genre that is often confused as just a frantic, screaming version of rockabilly. The Tones are more pure, building their numbers around macabre themes and an ever-present Farfisa organ to keep it garage-real. Lead singer Andrew See truly does embody the vocals of an early Glenn Danzig--you know, the pre-cartoonish Danzig, whose current jaw line is either the result of steroids or a steady diet of Milk Duds.
The Last Call Brawlers chose the middle slot, opening with the dramatic rolling drums and shredding guitar intro of "No Regrets." Revved-up covers of the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and Dave Alvin's "Crazy Baby" followed, but it was to be a night of fresh meat, with the Brawlers spotlighting their upcoming CD, Pointing Fingers (release party on Feb. 23 at The Hut), and debuting a few tunes so new they didn't get recorded in time for inclusion.
The Brawlers' strong suit is their diversity, something all too uncommon in this genre: They'll jump from a traditional rockabilly number to the cow-punk romp of Fingers' "Want You to Know," or pop the cherry off the hilarious new tune "Monstros de Gailetas," coming close to the Norteño punk first mined by The Weird Lovemakers.
Prescott's High Rollers closed the night with their accessible brand of twangy rockabilly, inspiring audience members to dance to the Southern-fried Social Distortion sound of the Rollers' "Lettin' You In." It may have just been some nerdy grad students catching a buzz up front, while the Betty Page-alikes dressed in red polka-dot dresses, high heels and leopard-print scarves played it cool in the back. But it proved that rock 'n' roll was made to be enjoyed, not defined.